University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 23 Sept 2016 Increasing girls’ interest in technology education as a way to advance women in technology (Niiranen)

Start date: Sep 23, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: Sep 23, 2016 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Seminarium S212

M.A. Sonja Niiranen defends her doctoral dissertation in Education "Increasing girls’ interest in technology education as a way to advance women in technology”. Opponent Professor Marc de Vries (Delft University of Technology, Holland)  and custos Professor Mirja Tarnanen. The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Technology-oriented fields are still largely male-dominated, and an effective approach for increasing the number of women in natural science and technology careers has not yet been achieved in EU countries. A related concern, particularly in Finland, is that even though gender equality and non-discrimination have long been critical concerns in education to date there has been very little of research in Finland about girls’ motivations towards technical craft or technology education, nor about their relation to women’s career aspirations in technology-oriented fields. The present study is my contribution to the concern of getting more women into technology by investigating how to increase girls’ access to and interest in technology education in basic education, and to add to our understanding of what affects women’s interests in entering technology-related careers in Finland. This dissertation is compiled from four sub-studies: a document analysis (Study 1), two questionnaire studies (Studies 2 and 3) and an interview study (Study 4). In total, the empirical data comprises of the answers of 281 pupils to a questionnaire, the answers of 24 women to a questionnaire and 7 interviews. The data analysis methods varied in each of the sub-studies by use of mixed methods, or a multi-methodological approach.

First, the findings suggest that in order to promote girls in technology education, it would be important that they would have equal possibilities to discover technological topics and gain self-esteem in the field already in primary school. Based on the findings, it is also clear that there are differences in girls’ and boys’ motivations concerning the contents of technology education. Thus, curriculum writers and teachers should pay more attention to girls in order to enable them to see that technology is relevant for them. Concerning women in technology-oriented fields, it is evident that the most influential career anchors were their high-level of competence and familiarity of the field. Also, based on the findings it is evident that there have been, and still might be, gender related issues in technology education and in working life. To conclude, technical craft and technology education should be developed with an eye towards gender-sensitive learning experiences and pupils should be offered the support and encouragement needed to experience new learning habits. Technology education has the potential to foster pupils’ technological literacy in ways that respond equitably to human needs now and into the future.

Keywords: technical craft; technology education; curriculum; girls; women; motivation; career orientation; gendered processes; equality

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Sonja Niiranen